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Autism Bill passes Senate on Tuesday instead of Wednesday

Sam Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama Senate passed a bill that would require healthcare plans to cover Autism Spectrum Disorder treatments for people under 19.

Only children 9 and under are required to be covered currently.

The substituted version of a bill was unexpectedly introduced on the Senate floor. It was originally scheduled to be voted on Wednesday but it was put on Tuesday’s agenda as the first bill.

President Pro Tem Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said the bill was introduced early because they had worked on the bill over the weekend and wanted to introduce it as soon as possible. Advocates of Autism coverage were planning on being present on Wednesday to see the bill voted on.

“The wasn’t done to upset the Autism community,” Marsh said.

The new bill would add varying coverage based on age with younger patients receiving more coverage.

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• 9 and Under: maximum of $40,000
• 10-13: $30,000
• 14-18: $20,000

The original bill had people ages 19 and older covered with $10,000 but a last-minute amendment by Senator Trip Pittman (R-Daphne) age caped the coverage at 18.

The age cap was much debated on the floor. Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) was the main opponent of age caps and said that age caps proposed by Pittman were “unsustainable.”

Ward has been an advocate for the bill and has a daughter who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The bill also got rid of the requirement for insurance companies to report the cost of providing these services to the Alabama Department of Insurance.

This new plan would be implemented in October 2017,  but coverage for people on Medicaid and children on the Alabama Department of Health program ALL Kids would begin on December 31, 2018. This was because this year’s budget did not account for the cost of providing these services.

These new rules would only apply to companies who have more than 51 employees.

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The bill was host to a contentious committee meeting last week which saw a packed committee room with advocates of coverage for Autism.

The final tally on the bill was 33-1 with Pittman being the only one to vote no. The bill will now go back to the House to be voted on.


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SD12 is currently represented by former Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who is not running for re-election.